- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Thousands of state employees in Washington state received notice Tuesday that they may be temporarily laid off if a new state budget isn’t adopted by early next week.

The Office of Financial Management has estimated that more than 26,000 employees will receive the furlough notices, with the vast majority receiving notice by email on Tuesday. The notices state that employees may not perform any work during the furlough, and will not receive any pay for any days that they are not at work. Some letters will be sent by mail last Friday to employees who are currently on leave.

Officials from the governor’s budget office have already released a contingency plan on what state offices may have to close completely if a two-year state operating budget isn’t signed into law before midnight June 30, when the current two-year budget ends.

David Postman, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said that the governor still believes a shutdown can be avoided.

“We don’t think anyone wants that to happen on their watch,” Postman said.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate are in the midst of a second special session and have in budget negotiations for several weeks.

Washington state has never had a government shutdown. But the Legislature has taken its budget talks to the brink before, including two years ago, when state employees received notice of possible temporary layoffs. Inslee signed a budget that year on June 30.

Under the government shutdown contingency plan that is currently on the Office of Financial Management’s website, all of the state’s universities and community colleges would remain open. But agencies like the Liquor Control Board, state parks and state Lottery would face a complete shutdown, while others like the governor’s office, the Department of Social & Health Services, and Department of Corrections would face a partial shutdown. Among those offices that would remain open are the Department of Transportation, the Traffic Safety Commission and the Office of the Treasurer.

This year’s notices come a day after House Democrats released their latest budget proposal, which doesn’t include any new taxes but looks for additional revenue through closing or limiting several tax exemptions. The House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on the package Monday and passed it out of committee on Tuesday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler wouldn’t comment directly on the House’s latest proposal, but said he was confident there wouldn’t be a government shutdown.

“We’re working hard to find a budget solution,” he said.

The current special session ends at midnight Saturday, and the governor is likely to call them back for a third overtime session if their work isn’t done by then.

“There’s time to get this done before the end of the 30th,” Postman said. “But they’re going to have to start moving faster.”

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